A few days ago, I received a parking ticket in the mail. It was a surprise, especially since my car itself had not had a ticket on its dashboard after having been cited. I had parked in downtown San Jose in a metered parking spot, and carefully checked the meter, which was posted as only being in operation between 8 am and 6 pm. To my mind, that meant free parking–but it turns out I was in a 30-minute parking space, and the time limit was enforced 24/7, including at 9 pm when the ticket was issued. I suspected the city’s (and state’s) financial situation had more than a little to do with the ticket, and warranted or not, I might not have received such a ticket two years ago, when the municipal coffers were more flush.
It put me to mind of what one of the predictors of forthcoming economic gloom and doom, Gerald Celente, had said last year. In one of his interviews, he said that as governmental agencies needed more money, they’d start nickel-and-diming their citizens, citing them for new or little-know infractions, raising fees, and playing tricks with taxation. I’d been on the watch for this, and it does seem that I see more people than ever pulled over for speeding, so much so that I now am very careful to stay to the speed limit, no matter how fast those around me are going. But maybe I just see the cops at the side of the road more because I’m looking for them.
On the other hand, other than getting a parking ticket due to San Jose’s enthusiasm about parking enforcement, I’ve yet to see the consequences I might have expected (or that Celente forecast) to years of out-of-control government spending, and the more recent high unemployment. When I go to the mall, the cash registers are still ringing, and people are walking around with multiple bags of newly-discovered goodies. Most of my friends who were working in 2008 are still working today, at the same, equivalent, or even better positions. And during my last Alice-in-Wonderland year, even I was well employed, and earned enough for two years worth of private school for my daughter. The houses which went in to foreclosure are now occupied by solvent families, and we haven’t seen any further effects of Happy Happy Lenderman’s mortgage spree.
I try to keep watching the economic tea leaves, but they’re confusing to say the least. My state still can’t cover its expenses, but the legislature suspects (maybe knows) that it’s much easier to get a federal bail-out, like they did last year, instead of cutting services and salaries. Greece may (or may not!) default on its debts, but would, or could, the U.S.? The debt is astounding, but not debt is too much if you can pay it one way or another. One month unemployment seems to rise, the next month to shrink. I have a new contract which went into a state of suspended animation just as it was scheduled to start: I’m not working, but no one’s really sure the gig is off completely, either. Celente had predicted another economic shock at the end of 2009, but we all know now that didn’t happen. So will it? Or does he go into my pile of debunked pronosticators, like Faith Popcorn, whom I remember for her prediction that we’d all be eating quiche instead of pizza now.
To add to my confusion, today, while I was pumping gas, another person who was filling up, questioned my choice of license plate, which says RLYH8LA. I admitted it is a rather aggro; after all, I really don’t go around trying to offend people. I awkwardly told him vaguely about my last trip to LA proper, which had inspired me to buy the vanity license. Realizing, perhaps, that there was little more he could do to get me to stop being such an LA H8ter, he returned to his car, with its UCLA license plate holder, and glowered quietly at me. Wow, someone likes LA! I thought, so much so that he can get up the courage and question a stranger about her obvious LA hatred! And here, Peter and I had thought the license plate was just the thing to help me avoid getting tickets in LA-phobic Northern California! But I did get a ticket! So maybe the city of San Jose hasn’t really gone on a ticketing spree, but maybe hired a meter maid who loves the City of Angels, and objected so much to my license that she noted my info even while off duty, and typed the ticket into a computer the next day, because LA H8ters must pay for their prejudice.
So, like most economists, I really don’t know what’s up–or down, and what the future will bring. I paid off the ticket, and plan to avoid street parking, at least in downtown San Jose, whenever possible from now on.